A young girl and her giant metal guardian trek across a fantastic world full of beauty, conflict, and danger in this bittersweet tale of coming-of-age and survival.
From Image Comics, Step by Bloody Step is a wordless graphic novel which conveys a great amount of depth through its striking sequence of visuals. We meet the girl and her guardian amidst a frozen landscape beneath a tree perched atop a cliffside. However, it does not take long for them to leave this place. The girl is full of wonder, searching for flowers and taking in the vastness of the world. Her guardian, meanwhile, is love and violence, looking after the girl’s need while also fending off the multitude dangers of the wilds.
Time passes as the pair traverse the world, leaving the mountains behind as they pass by small settlements who speak a language neither girl or guardian understands. The girl grows older, chafing against the constant direction of her protector. And still more world stretches out before them—a world of imperialism and warfare which will carry the two travelers to the edges of their endurance and force them both to make decisions which will impact everything to come.
Though the only dialogue in Step by Bloody Step is presented in glyphs without translation, brief poetic passages begin each section of the story and help set the book’s tone. Even without additional words, Spurrier has scripted a simple story that carries a heart of great emotion. The guardian raises a child in a hostile world. Grief, love, and power war in the lives of every character. The violence of a dangerous existence threatens to overwhelm at every turn. This comic is a fantasy adventure, a survival story—but most of all it is a tale of growing up, of cycles of life, and of the legacy each of us leaves behind.
By nature of its form, the greatest strengths of the story come in the art. On every page, Bergara crafts landscapes that are both terrible and beautiful. Every emotional high and low is conveyed in the visuals, from flashes of fleeting beauty to the love and devastation stretching from the characters’ eyes to the depths of their souls. Bergara builds worlds and characters across these pages, creating spreads and panels worth lingering over even as the story grips your heart without uttering a word.
Altogether, Step by Bloody Step is an achievement of visual storytelling. For fans of coming-of-age narratives, for those who are parents or caregivers, and those who want to lose themselves in fantasy worlds, this creative team has a lot to deliver. Image rates the title Teen+, and with violence that is often graphic but rarely too realistic, it’s perfectly suitable for older teen as well as adult readers. It’s a comic well-worth putting into the hands of a wide audience, but anyone who connects with the emotional core of the story will find something truly special here. As a feat of both comics and storytelling, Step by Bloody Step deserves a place in any collection aimed at teens and above.
Step by Bloody Step
By Simon Spurrier
Art by Matías Bergara
Publisher Age Rating: T+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: British, Uruguayan